Malaysian PM under pressure to cancel political stability pact

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Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob attends a bilateral meeting with Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh at the government office in Hanoi on Monday. (photo by AFP)

Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob is under pressure from his party to cancel a confidence and supply agreement with the opposition, a move that could allow the government to dissolve parliament sooner than expected.

This was after opposition lawmakers rejected a bill that would have allowed the government to renew for five years its powers to detain suspects without trial for up to 28 days. The bill was rejected by a majority of two votes, with 50 MPs absent, according to the Speaker of Parliament on Wednesday.

The defeat was “humiliating” and violated the so-called memorandum of understanding on transformation and political stability signed between the government and the opposition Pakatan Harapan alliance last year, according to leaders of the ruling party, l ‘United Malay National Organization.

“The spirit and purpose of the MoU was clear, for a stable and smooth administration and to support the Prime Minister in managing the country’s turnaround,” said Multimedia and Communications Minister Annuar Musa, a leader of UMNO. “For me, Pakatan Harapan, especially DAP, needs to come to terms with the fact that the Prime Minister is no longer tied to this MoU.”

The prime minister’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

At stake is Malaysia’s next general election, which is expected to take place this year due to pressure from UMNO. Ismail said on Saturday he would dissolve parliament – a precursor to a nationwide vote – once he was convinced his party had won. However, the pact with the opposition prevents him from taking the step before July 31 this year.

The opposition has argued that its rejection of the bill does not affect its agreement with the government. The MoU states that Pakatan Harapan would only support or abstain from voting on bills that served as de facto confidence votes, and Wednesday’s bill did not fall into that category.

“UMNO-BN must immediately get out of the shackles of this weak cooperation,” UMNO President Ahmad Zahid Hamidi wrote on Facebook on Thursday. “All of this only reinforces my belief that UMNO must rise up and return as a strong, great and respected political power.”

Still, it is in Ismail’s interest to extend the pact and delay the national vote so he can stay in power for as long as possible, said Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the Institute of International Affairs in Singapore. The election is only scheduled for July 2023, and UMNO has no guarantee that Ismail would continue to be their candidate for prime minister.

“But if the opposition says ‘no, we don’t want to continue with the MoU’ and the dominant UMNO faction pulls the rug out from under them, then Ismail will have no choice but to to call for a general election,” Oh said. .


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